Three times each week, KQED releases a robust collection of resources centered around a current event. Recent weeks have seen students from across the country mulling over the role of standardized testing in schools, exploring benefits and possible dangers of artificial turf and contemplating the best ways to support veterans. These collections are built around thematic questions and invite our nation’s students to read, listen, watch, and engage in a national discussion through social media. This is the first post in a three part series explaining how I take my students from interacting with sources, to interacting with each other, to interacting with a larger discourse community through social media and multimedia text.

Beginning our Year: Structuring Deeper Student Interaction
I have been using Do Now in my classroom for the past three years. I use these activities much the same way as Kelly Gallagher proposes in the Article of the Week assignment explained in Readicide, ensuring that my students are exposed to nonfiction articles to broaden their worldview and challenge their thinking about issues in our community and nation.

When I started to use Do Now I quickly became aware that my students would respond to the prompts in superficial ways. Common sense took the place of evidence based persuasion. Students were not considering the varied perspectives afforded in these resources and instead reverted to gut reactions.

These early student struggles prompted important questions. How could I develop a structure to help students fully explore the multimedia resources offered by KQED? How could I help students develop strategies to ensure that their responses to these texts are deep, meaningful, and informed?

Building Annotating Skills
When the school year opens, simplicity is key. To begin the process I find a high interest article on Newsela, a site which boasts articles rewritten for a variety of reading levels. As each article on the site is offered rewritten for five different reading levels (ranging from elementary to 12th grade), it is easy to find an article about a relevant topic but well within the majority of my students’ reading level. After finding a relevant article I copy and paste the piece into a Google Doc and share out a copy to each student via Google Classroom.

Students begin by reading the article and annotating with the comment feature on Google Docs. I encourage students when annotating to take note of important ideas, unfamiliar words and connections. Students read a page and then we stop, share out our annotations and discuss. In this discussion I ask students to elaborate on their thoughts and I ask follow up questions to deepen the thinking and discussion.

Once students understand the basics of annotation we build on the foundation we’ve laid. After we’ve tackled a Newsela article, students are ready to enter into KQED’s Do Now. During this step I introduce my students to Scrible, an online annotation tool. Students sign up for an account (we use our school issued Google email) and gain access to a toolbar which allows students to bookmark, highlight, annotate, and even share quotes or annotations directly to Twitter or Facebook (depending on your district’s filter).

My 9th graders install the toolbar and then we begin our first Do Now. At this point I still want to keep it simple so I limit students to two sources. First we turn on the Scrible toolbar and read and annotate the “Learn More” introduction on the Do Now page. Again, students annotate the article and we discuss. Repeat the process. Read. Take note. Discuss.

Annotating Multimedia Text
I then pick another source for students to analyze from the “More Resources” section. Many of the videos and podcasts KQED aggregates provide the transcripts. At this stage we will watch or listen to the piece without taking notes. When finished students are directed to scroll down to the transcripts to annotate using Scrible. Students read, annotate and discuss. Students again focus their annotations on important ideas, questions and connections.

Building Out a Response
After students have read and interacted with two texts, I introduce writing into the process. Students are asked to write a short response to the Do Now prompt and integrate evidence from the texts. At this stage of the process students are directed to make sure responses have a clear beginning, middle, and end and that they have integrated two pieces of evidence into the response either via paraphrase or direct quote. Students are given models of effective quote integration and we talk about the importance of “say it, show it, and explain it,” otherwise known as lead in, evidence, and commentary. Students will write during class while I walk around and work with students one on one or in small groups, focusing on creating writing with structure and effectively integrating evidence.

Next Steps
This is just one possible way to encourage students to engage in deeper interaction in the early stages of Do Now. This early stage work helps prepare my students for the next phases of working with Do Now: targeted notetaking, Socratic Seminar discussions, sharing their thoughts in the KQED comments section, entering into the social media discussion and creating multimedia texts to deepen the discussion of these issues. However, there are many possible entryways into Do Now so we encourage you to develop your own way in as we continue to build on this rich hub of national student discussion.

Jumping Into the Deep End: Preparing Students For Meaningful Social Media Discussions 8 March,2017Joel Malley


Joel Malley

Joel Malley teaches English 9, AP Literature and Composition and a senior English elective entitled Digital Writing Workshop at Cheektowaga Central High School, just outside of Buffalo, NY. His Digital Writing Workshop is a PBS Newshour Student Reporting Lab. He has been a teaching consultant with the National Writing Project since 2003.

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